I’ll let you in on a little secret, because, well, that’s how I roll. Are you ready?
Red Wine Audio has a stupid-good integrated amp for $1500.
Look, I hear you. $1500 isn’t chump change — and you’re absofreakinlutely right. It’s a lot of dough. But. Okay, but. Given that we’re already talking about a “hobby” where stupid-good can (but shouldn’t) cost more than a brand-new BMW, $1500 is … a screaming deal.
I’ve had the unit for all of a week, courtesy of RWA’s Master Vintner, Vinnie Rossi, so at best, call this write up an “introduction” and not a review, okay? Anyway, I asked for a loaner after I ended up purchasing the Tekton Pendragon‘s he recommended me last Fall. I’d been looking for a low-power amp solution to go along with a high sensitivity speaker (a second system) and naturally I put a call into Red Wine.
In the spirit of full disclosure, this is the second Red Wine amp that I’ve had in. The first one was a Signature 30.2 that I tried out back in 2008 (-ish). In comparison to that box, the Signature 15 looks and feels pretty much the same.
One thing that’s different (aside from the guts) is an external battery charger. I don’t remember this on the Sig 30.2 … But whatever, this little box helps by providing a ground lift and some indication of where you are in your battery charge cycle.
Inputs and outputs are also a bit more flexible over the 30.2. You get 3 inputs and two outputs — one is a set of pre outs (see pic below) and of course you have your stereo speaker binding posts. Since the charger is external, there’s an XLR-based input jack to the side, along with a switch to tell the unit where to draw power during playback.
The remote has gotten a bit of a once-over, too. Very minimalistic, but a bit more elegant than what I remember from the earlier unit. Still plastic, unfortunately, but then, this is a $1500 amp.
I also have a King Rex U-384 DAC in for review, so I figured — hey, all battery! It’s turning out to be an outstanding sounding system.
I’m still waiting on some Vaughn Pinot Monitors, so in the meantime, I’m using the Totem Model 1 Signature speakers that were recently ejected from my home theater system in favor of some larger, front-ported Joseph Audio speakers. These Model 1’s are a nice size for this near-field listening setup and the sound is, well, surprising.
I’m breaking in the amp now, so as I mentioned, it’s a bit early for pronouncements about this little system’s sound quality — so, let’s do some anyway. Are you ready?
It sounds great. And by “great” I mean “really, perhaps even surprisingly, good”. I can’t remember being this impressed by my Totems before. And the amp is hardly broken in!
I’m spending today catching up on email and whatnot, so I have the stereo on. I’m playing through a selection of tunes I picked up off of various demo CDs put together by consummate showman Philip O’Hanlon (Luxman and Vivid distributor for the US). And while Philip may not be my biggest fan — “[Part-Time Audiophile] isn’t really on the same playing field as a “real” audio rag, now is it there?” said he in his delicious brogue — he can certainly pick some sweet tunes.
I’m a happy camper, right now!
I’m gonna close this intro with a referral. After Vinnie and I worked out the details for the loaner, 6moons went ahead and awarded the Signature 15 a “Blue Moon” award. I’ve been a long-time fan of Srajan Ebaen’s writing and I think he did a really nice job of taking the unit completely apart (sonically) and looking at it from a lot of different directions. A good read.
One thing he didn’t do, which I plan to, is some tube rolling. Vinnie’s supposed to send me a batch to “try out” — I’m very much looking forward to it.